The House of Hazelwood has released its second set of releases drawn from the storied archives of William Grant & Sons. As with the initial release, many of these expressions consist of an assortment of single malt, grain, and blended Scotch whiskies. Many are the legacies of experiments undertaken decades ago and are only now being released.
Below are tasting notes on the latest set of releases. The House of Hazelwood generously supplied tasting samples. As before, four of the releases are from the Charles Gordon Collection, and four are from The Legacy Collection.
House of Hazelwood, A Singular Blend, 1963 Blended Scotch Whisky, 45.6% ABV, 700 ml, 74 bottles released.
A Singular Blend is a blended whisky consisting of a single malt and a grain whisky produced at the same distillery complex. The name of the distilleries is not disclosed, other than they are both Highland ones. The whiskies were distilled in 1963 and matured in ex-bourbon casks for 58 years. It’s unclear if they were blended just before bottling or if they were blended at an earlier point and then married in a barrel for extended maturation.
Most Scottish grain distilleries are in the Lowlands. These distilleries operate on a much larger scale than the typical malt distillery. They need a more robust transportation infrastructure to handle the volumes of grain they need or the whisky they produce. They are more likely to find these conditions in the Lowlands, especially in the vicinity of Edinburgh and Glasgow, than they are further north.
Dual-use facilities, where both malt whisky and grain whisky are produced, are unusual, although not unheard of. Loch Lomond currently produces both malt and grain whisky from a single facility. Girvan, owned by William Grant & Sons, has the Ailsa Bay malt distillery co-located at the grain distillery. Before Ailsa Bay, Girvan hosted the Ladyburn malt distillery.
The Moffat/Garnheath distillery complex also housed the Killyloch and Glen Flagler malt distilleries. Strathclyde housed the Kinclaith malt distillery. Camronbridge housed grain and malt distilleries, but the practice stopped in 1929. Strathmore experimented with malt whisky production until 1980. However, all these distilleries are in the Lowlands.
As far as I know, only two grain distilleries in the Highlands produced malt whisky in the latter half of the 20th century. Ben Nevis had both grain and malt whisky from 1955 to 1978. The distillery is still operating but only produces malt whisky now. The Invergordon distillery produced Ben Wyvis malt whisky from 1965 to 1977. Invergordon is still running but now only produces grain whisky. Based on its origin in the Highlands and the distillation year, A Singular Blend likely came from Ben Nevis.
On the nose, the whisky is sweet, with a distinctive butterscotch note. There are the rancio aromas of new leather and a bit of waxiness, followed by dried orchard fruit and a hint of walnut. On the palate, it’s smooth and creamy, with lemon cream, a candied sweetness, and a slight herbal note of dried tobacco leaf. There is, initially, a notable bitter note that diminishes quickly but lingers. The finish is long, sweet, and fruity, with a persistent herbal note.
House of Hazelwood, The Next Chapter, 50 YO Blended Scotch Whisky, 45.3% ABV, 700 ml, 157 bottles released.
The Next Chapter is a double-matured blended whisky. It was initially matured in a combination of American and European oak and then finished for 15 years in an active ex-bourbon cask.
On the nose, it’s sweet and floral, with a pronounced creamy butterscotch note. On the palate, it’s rich and creamy, with candied orange zest/marmalade notes and vanilla and butterscotch flavors. The finish is long and sweet, with lingering orange marmalade notes.
House of Hazelwood, The Unknown, 44 YO Blended Scotch Whisky, 43.3% ABV, 700 ml, 143 bottles released.
The Unknown is a blended Scotch whisky. Initially distilled in 1978, it was blended in 1989 and then matured for an additional 33 years in a single refill butt.
On the nose, it’s sweet and syrupy, with distinctive wood spice notes, especially cinnamon. It has a candied sweetness on the palate, with notes of brown sugar and dried fruits. The finish is long, sweet, and creamy, with lingering dried fruit notes.
House of Hazelwood, The Old Confectioner’s, 44 YO Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, 46.4% ABV, 700 ml, 256 bottles released
The Old Confectioner is a blended malt Scotch whisky matured in a refill Oloroso Sherry butt. The single malt components of the blend are not disclosed. The name Old Confectioner underscores that the sweet, caramel, and fruity aromas on the nose are reminiscent of an old-fashioned candy store.
On the palate, there is butterscotch, candied fruit, and licorice. It’s syrupy, with a pronounced palate weight. The finish is long and sweet, with a layered complexity that features candied dry fruit, hints of licorice, a touch of leather, and a slightly bitter note.
House of Hazelwood, A Breath of Fresh Air, 37 YO Blended Grain Scotch Whisky, 46.4% ABV, 700 ml, 417 bottles released.
A Breath of Fresh Air is a blend of grain whiskies across Scotland. The identity of the distilleries in the blend is not disclosed.
On the nose, the whisky is floral and exhibits pronounced tropical fruit notes, some well-seasoned oak, and slightly spirity. The oak notes are more pronounced on the palate but quickly fade to reveal a candied sweetness, typical of ultra-aged grain whiskies, and tropical fruit notes of pineapple, mango, and melon. There is a slight herbaceous note and a mild but persistent pepperiness. The finish is long, with a pronounced candid sweetness and lingering woody and fruity notes.
House of Hazelwood, The Eight Grain, 40 YO Blended Grain Scotch Whisky, 48% ABV, 700 ml, 384 bottles released.
As the name suggests, the Eight Grain is a blend of eight grain whiskies drawn from active and closed distilleries across Scotland. On the nose, the whisky is sweet, with tropical fruit, a bit of seasoned oak, and some caramel notes.
On the palate, the whisky is fruitier, exhibiting notes of stone and tropical fruits, including baked bananas and dried apricots. The whisky is smooth and creamy, with a pepperiness that fades quickly and a slightly bitter note. The finish is long and sweet, with lingering notes of seasoned oak wood and fruit.
House of Hazelwood, The Lowlander, 36 YO Blended Scotch Whisky, 45.9% ABV, 700 ml, 432 bottles released.
The Lowlander is a blended whisky whose components are drawn from Lowland distilleries. Most Scotch grain distillation capacity is in the lowlands, so most blended whiskies incorporate grain whisky from lowland distilleries. The malt whisky component in a blend, however, is typically drawn from all over Scotland. So, a blend of just lowland malts is unusual.
On the nose, the whisky has the green herbaceous notes typical of many lowland distilleries. There are notes of freshly cut grass, some dried tropical fruit aromas, and a touch of wet stone minerality.
On the palate, it’s sweet with a candied, cotton candy flavor and dried tropical fruits. The finish is long, sweet, and fruity.
House of Hazelwood, A Trail of Smoke, 42 YO Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, 46.5% ABV, 700 ml, 385 bottles released.
A Trail of Smoke is a blend of peated single malts. As usual, the distilleries are not identified. The reference to “the remarkable islands from which it hails” suggests that the provenance is most likely the Western islands of Islay and the Hebrides of the Scottish coast.
On the nose, the peat smoke is subtle. There are briny notes of a fresh sea breeze, citrus, herbal aromas, and fruitiness.
On the palate, the whisky is sweet, with notes of tropical fruit and a distinctive briny and savory flavor. The smoke gradually builds, eventually giving way to some medicinal notes.
The finish is long and sweet, with a pronounced fruitiness and a lingering phenolic smokiness.
See the previous article to this feature for the tasting notes on the first batch of House of Hazelwood releases. The whiskies are available from specialist whisky retailers or directly from the company.
The second installment of House of Hazelwood releases offers a tantalizing array of Scotch whiskies, from single malts to multigrain to blended Scotch whisky. It’s rare to find these kinds of expressions that have been ultra-aged for decades. These are genuinely one-of-a-kind whiskies. They are well worth exploring. If you like them, buy more than one. Once they are gone, you are unlikely ever to see them again.